Should Prayer Replace Discipline in Parenthood? Here’s What I Think.
As a Christian, my faith tells me that prayer is an essential element of my spiritual journey. Prayer allows me time to converse with God and not only share my concerns with Him but also my thanks and gratitude for the many blessings I have. My daughter has a purple T-shirt from summer camp with the words “Let God Lead” written on the back; it inspires me.
To what degree do we as parents follow that principle when it comes to parenting our children? For example, some Christian parents believe that prayer should be used in place of discipline. The belief behind this principle is that we (parents) pray for our children, causing God to stir in their hearts and ultimately guide them to do the right thing. On the other hand, there are others who believe that strict discipline should be the primary focus, and that if and when prayer comes into play, it is secondary to that discipline. Taking my question to the “experts,” also known as my Facebook friends, I received quite a few different answers. One parent in particular stated that she believes that discipline is necessary and prayer is optional. (Personally I believe that prayer is essential; however, I recognize that some do not practice their faith the same way that I do, if they practice any faith at all.) Other responses refer to prayer as a partner with discipline, meaning that we must pray for wisdom and the ability to know how to discipline our children correctly in various situations. For many, prayer goes hand-in-hand, if you will, with discipline when it comes to teaching our children to make good choices in life, including their spiritual growth.
There are many scriptures in the Bible that refer to raising children; some can be interpreted as being strict, while others may have a gentler approach. I am not an expert in theology or parenting, but I believe that in the world we live in today, parents should not rely solely on prayer to get them and their children through the “growing-up” years. Being proactive in our children’s lives, establishing rules and defining consequences for both positive and inappropriate behaviors, is necessary in order to be a successful parent with responsible and respectful adult children. Implementing a strong faith-filled life that includes prayer, I believe, is an important piece of the parenting puzzle.
As a young girl growing up, I knew that certain discipline would be taken or certain consequences would occur if specific behaviors were displayed. To this day I can remember a few spankings that I received because of something I had done. Do I believe that I am scarred psychologically from those spankings? I don’t believe that I am, but I do remember them and believe that I learned to follow those disciplines in my early parenting years. As my faith and my children grew, I realized that this form of discipline was not what wanted, and I chose to parent differently than the way I was parented. But how did I come to that conclusion? Prayer played a big part in all of it. Did I substitute prayer for discipline? No, I did not. I believe that parenting involves both prayer and discipline. Children need to learn how to make good choices and that consequences follow the choices that are made. In order to parent appropriately, we must model the behaviors we want to see in our children, including a faithful prayer life.
As I watch Lifetime’s new docu-series "Preachers' Daughters," I am reminded just how difficult parenting can be, whether we live a faith-filled life or not. Christians often find themselves set apart by society, as if they are expected to live a perfect life. And quite often, we forget that Christians, including clergy, are normal everyday people who sometimes find themselves in complicated situations. How those situations are handled vary from person to person; what we need to remember is that we are all facing the difficult task of parenting and that life sometimes gets in our way. For me, taking time out to pray, reflect and remind myself that I cannot do this alone makes it a little easier. Prayer vs. discipline, in my opinion, is not the answer; prayer with discipline is.